Category Archives: Art

Not a Football Post

2010 is starting here with blue sky, crisp blue shadows on the deep, crusty layer of snow. It’s above zero, one degree, but still above and from the backyard trees there’s no wind. A great day for strenuous outdoor activity if you’re properly protected from the cold. For someone other than me that is. It also might be a great day to read a book, by the fireplace, with hot chocolate. Or watch football. What is the average time per American male spent watching football on New Year’s Day? The volume of chips consumed? Gallons of beer? Gallons of beer spilled in celebration or anger? Level of profanity spewed at coaches, refs, players and opponents? I won’t be contributing to those numbers, I may have to turn in my guy card. So be it.

Great party last night, at one of those houses designed by an architect for themselves. Classic Mid-Century Modern, a really nice pad with a big open living room that perfectly served the purpose of musical venue for the evening. Another great feature, obscured now of course, is no lawn mowing. The small front yard is all planted in garden and the back is full of massive hardwoods, so it’s natural forest floor.

We were treated to really excellent music in the form of a jam, lead by the host and some great local musicians. I’m always amazed by the way these folks, without rehearsal, will briefly talk over the structure of a song, “Three chords in A, it starts on the five and the there’s a bridge in D,” and everyone will have it after one verse. Great songs, great singers and great players. I was sweating bullets that I would be asked to sit in, it would be like me trying to step in at point guard for the Wolves. It worked out well though, after almost everyone left, Clay our host and Dan, the guitarist and bass player for Yodel a Go Go, and I did a few basic three chord songs and I was able to pretty much follow along by watching Clay’s hands. Lot’s of fun.

At one point during a break they were playing a CD by some local artist, I missed the name, and Clay said, “When I listen to this and realize how good it is and know that it’s not a big hit, what chance do I have.” This prompted a discussion about how many great musicians there are that are working day jobs, or barely eking out a living playing. It amazes me how hard these folks work for their art, with such little compensation. And these folks seem to be working a labor of love, preserving a style of music that they love, rootsy country and rockabilly. Which is good for me because I love that music too.

Someone once said to me that if I thought art was a tough gig, think about music. True that.

Humble Pie

Yesterday I started reading Tim O’Brien’s Going After Cacciato (spoiler alert) and also watched Julia and Julie. Let me just say I’ve been humbled. You may be surprised that I haven’t yet read Cacciato, because it really should be required reading for anyone of my generation, at least anyone who professes affinity to Literature with a capital “L.” And you might be amazed that I would be humbled by a Hollywood movie, because those of us who fancy themselves literary, cool, creative and hip, really need to distain Hollywood movies or be exposed as not being any of the former.

I’m not quite sure why I haven’t read much of O’Brien until recently. Quinn, my youngest daughter, who was blessed with an excellent English teacher, read The Things We Carried in High School and she loved it, and recommended it to me. She’s the one that gave me Cacciato for Christmas this year. The book sucked me  in immediately.

Paul Berlin, whose only goal was to live long enough to establish goals worth living for still longer, stood high in the tower by the sea, the night soft all around him, and wondered not for the first time, about the immense powers of his own imagination.

See, humbling. I’ve wondered about my immense powers of imagination. I was virtually an only child, my brother and sister were teenagers when I was born, and I kept myself company with elaborate fantasies. I learned to draw by illustrating the stories in my head. My sister, home from college, suggested that my parents take me to a shrink, because I spent so much time in conversation with my menagerie of imaginary friends, way past the age when imaginary friends are appropriate. I would go to sleep at night telling myself elaborate, juvenile adventure stories. I was an odd duck.

But I never did anything with it. I think I started my first novel at about nine. It was a historical novel, Minnesota was celebrating it’s centennial, the novel was about Henry Sibley. Of course I only got about three pages written when my attention went elsewhere, but not before I enlisted my teacher in the production of some sort of elaborate historical production. She put me in charge. It fizzled instantly when I became bored with it. To this day I have a hard time finishing projects. So I’m humbled not only by O’Brien’s beautifully woven story within a story and his superb writing, but also by the mere fact that he got it done!

Same with Julie Powell and her blog. She got it done. She set this crazy project for herself and got it done, even though she was working full time, doing the cooking and writing about it. Here I am, not employed with way too much time on my hands, trying to get this blog going and half the time I can’t think of anything to write about and when I do come up with something, it seems so stiff and forced to me. I read what I’ve written and ask myself, didn’t I used to be witty and clever? People told me I was. What happened?

Stay tuned. Tomorrow I’m going to try to analyze the situation and see if I can figure out what’s going on and what to do about it.

Confusing Communication

Last night we had a small party to celebrate Quinn’s graduation from the U of M. At the risk of being a parental braggart, one semester early with a double major. I’m very proud of her. She majored in Art and Art History, her concentration in Art was ceramics. Naturally she has compiled quite a collection of pottery over the last few years and she wasn’t quite sure what she wanted to do with it. So she put out some of her pieces and we told the guests to help themselves before they left. Part of the collection was made up of simple thrown cylinders that she had done as a technical exercise in one of her early classes. Even though they are more practice pieces than anything else, some are very attractive. She told me that almost everyone that selected a cylinder asked her if they could drink coffee out of them. We decided that they meant that in a chemical sense, not an aesthetic sense. “They’re not mugs, they’re cylinders. When you make a mug you think about the handle and the lip and how the liquid will flow out of it and all those form follows function kind of decisions. So, yes, you can safely drink coffee out of them, just so I don’t have to see you do it.”

Another communication pitfall occurred this morning. I asked my wife if she worked next week. “You mean this week?”

It’s Sunday, right? This is the weekEND, right. So it’s the end of this week. Tomorrow is Monday and the beginning of next week right. Am I wrong on this??

Lights on Broadway

smallersanfordposterThis morning I was down at the Plymouth Christian Youth Center in North Minneapolis. Carl Griffin their communications person gave me a tour of the campus and of the Capri Theater, which is owned by the center. The occasion for the tour was my picking up copies of the poster I designed for the upcoming Sanford Moore concert. They’re doing some amazing things on the Corner of Broadway and Logan. They’ve taken a former auto dealership and transformed it  into their offices and PYC Arts & Technology High School, a beautiful building where “at risk” kids are using the combination of art and technology to enhance their learning experience.

Students are learning about DNA by building sculptural representations of the Chromosome strands and studying math as it applies to music. Students are learning technical, as well as interpersonal skills by working as apprentices at the Capri, which they have also recently remodeled. They have multi-purposed the buildings, not only producing their own shows at the theater, but renting it for other musical and theatrical productions. The school building also provides a venue for after school activities and multiple youth programs. It’s a bright and inviting place, alive with natural light and vibrating with activity. I saw lots of happy faces on the kids. All in all it looks like a great environment for learning.

Part of the vision is to “bring up the lights on Broadway” and to “Lead the Capri Theater Renaissance” by making the theater a year around cultural destination that attracts visitors from all over the Twin Cities, showcasing North Side talent and revitalizing the neighborhood. Check out Sanford Moore next month and see the great things going on Broadway!

I’ve been working on the railroad


This summer we went to the Railroad Museum in Wisconsin Dells. I took a pile of shots of rusted out trains and old railroad stuff, planning to do some photopaintings from them. Here’s the first. View on black

Clean and Sober

Last weekend the Kellers laid low at home and watched two movies about addicts, Clean and Rachel Getting Married. Generally I’m not a fan of addiction and recovery themes, too much like real life, I guess. But I found these films to be engrossing. Both center on addicted women, played by Maggie Cheung and Anne Hathaway, who are very unsympathetic characters. Alienating all around them with their destructive and self possessed behavior, these human train wrecks seem to be destined to lose everything to their addiction, and not have anyone left to care. In Clean, Cheung’s character, Emily, is cleaning up after a stint in prison and is trying to reunite with her son, who is being cared for by the parents of her overdose victim husband. Hathaway’s Kym, is on a furlough from treatment to attend her sister’s wedding, and soon makes it obvious that she thinks everything is about her and about her problem. She turns her toast at the groom’s dinner into a twelve step amends, going on and on about how sorry she is for everything, without ever mentioning the bride and groom. That wouldn’t qualify as making amends at the meetings I went to.

It was the former behavior that bothered me the most. I’m a recovering alcoholic, or as my father who shared the malady called it, a dehorn. That must have been stockyards lingo. I’ve gone 24  years without a drink, if you don’t count the time this summer when I grabbed the wrong beer bottle off the counter at a family gathering. It wasn’t O’Doul’s. I’m not counting it. I try to stay pretty low key about it, I get uncomfortable when people call attention to it. I’ll cop to it if the situation calls for it, but I always hope the conversation goes elsewhere quickly. Continue reading Clean and Sober

A little art, a little name dropping

springfall_1_775Yesterday’s StarTribune featured some personal connections of note. In the OP-ED section, long time friend Susan Cushman wonders about the role doctors play in the last days of life, if they need to be more forthright with families and patients when confronting the inevitable. Based on recent personal experience Susan, a Doctor herself, inspires us to give thought to what we least like to think about.

medalLucia Watson, chef and proprietor of Lucia’s, who I’ve swapped Walleye recipes with and named a daughter after, is being awarded the prestigious Chevalier du Merite Agricole. “…one of the highest honors from the French Ministry of Agriculture. It’s akin to a knighthood, and recognizes her culinary expertise and focus on locally grown, sustainable food products.” Congrats, Lucia. Oh and if  you’ve haven’t been to the restaurant, you must. You might just name your firstborn after it as well.

Finally may Alma Mater, Carleton College was written up for it’s new sparely appointed student housing. Apparently they’re bucking a trend of schools attracting students by building very posh accommodations. They feel that the more draconian digs will attract a greener thinking matriculate. Although in Minnesota, not having air conditioning between September in May doesn’t sound like a huge sacrifice. Anyway, what’s the big deal? Musser Hall has been there since the sixties!